Flexible MBA Programs Allow Students to Balance Coursework, Parenthood and Career

This article was originally published as a WRAL Spotlight feature.

Regina Ali was like many American workers, trying to balance home and work life while considering her best options for the future. She had worked in biotech her entire career, and with Biogen specifically for six years.

When Ali’s supervisor made her aware of an employee assistance program that would pay for much of a master’s in business administration program, at first she doubted she’d have time.

“I already work a full-time job, and a have a busy family life. How in the world am I supposed to add a master’s degree program on top of it all?” Ali recalled wondering. “But it’s actually worked out very well.”

NOT WITHOUT SACRIFICES

The Jenkins MBA program at North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management provides the flexibility Ali needed, but it has not been without sacrifices for her and her family.

Ali said before she decided to go ahead, she first talked it over with her husband and mother. Both agreed it was a good move for her and that they could help pick up some slack with caring for her preschool-age son and other household duties.

“Even friends have stepped-up to help,” she said. “When I bring my son over for a play date, I’ll bring my work and sit in the other room studying.”

While N.C. State’s Jenkins MBA allows for six years to finish the degree, Ali is on track to graduate in three.

She doesn’t even give herself a moment’s rest in the car. Ali will get the audio books and lectures as podcasts so she can use her commutes as study times.

FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE MAKES IT POSSIBLE

Both her employer’s program and the MBA’s schedule allowed a flexibility that made this undertaking possible. Ali described how N.C. State’s program gave her multiple options as to where and when she could take classes that fulfilled requirements.

“If I couldn’t make it to the main campus, I could go to the RTP campus. If I couldn’t make either of those times, there were online options,” Ali recalled. “They are really good about working with you because they know all the part-time MBA students have busy lives outside of the program.”

CONTINUING ADVANCEMENT

Ali was clear that she undertook this challenge because she saw career benefits available by furthering her education.

She had been employed at Biogen the past six years and had advanced to the role of senior manufacturing support specialist. As part of her career development, she transferred a year ago to a recently acquired fill-finish facility. Ali authors manufacturing documentation, leads investigations, and manages both change control and continuous improvement initiatives.

Much of this advancement has taken place while she’s been enrolled in the MBA program and because of things she’s learning.

“I’m able to apply what I learn almost immediately,” Ali said. “We get great career coaching on how to be a better employee and a better manager. There are also a lot of big-picture lessons on business operations that allow me to help my company fine-tune processes.”

Ali only has a few more credits before graduating from N.C. State’s Poole College of Management with a Jenkins MBA.

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